BHUBANESWAR: A team of researchers has found that Artemisinin, an effective antimalarial drug, can block the spreading of a malignant tumour from breast to other parts of the body. If used as part of a combinatorial therapy, it can combat dreaded cancer.
The finding, which has been accepted by BMC Cancer, an international journal, shows a ray of hope for the treatment breast cancer which is rapidly growing in the country and considered as a major cause of death among women.
The study was carried out by lead author Kanchan Kumari and three other researchers under the guidance of principal investigator Dr Sandip Kumar Mishra, a senior scientist with the City-based Institute of Life Sciences (ILS).
“The important aspect and novelty of our finding is that in case of estrogen receptor positive cancer, Artemisinin can serve as a check point for cell motility, invasion and growth. We have carried out the study in human breast cancer cells,” said Mishra. The greater a woman’s exposure to the hormone estrogen, the more susceptible she is to breast cancer. In case of breast cancer, estrogen hormone signalling through Estrogen Receptor (ER) gets deregulated.
Mutations in the receptors for the hormone, Mishra said, are one of the accepted reasons for the erratic behaviour of deregulated estrogen signalling. In his breakthrough research, he has found out a molecule, which can work as a backup to replace the deregulated ER.
“The molecule, Estrogen Receptor Related Beta (ERR Beta), is also a family member of ER and can even work as a tumour suppressor,” he said.
The ILS scientist strongly believes that a combinatorial therapy by Artemisinin along with modulation of ERR Beta expression would prove as an effective strategy to combat the metastasis on breast cancer. The drug is a derivative of leaves and flowers of Artemisia annual, commonly known as sweet wormwood.
During investigation, altered expression of 84 genes related to ER positive breast cancer cell motility in response to Artemisinin was evidenced by the researchers besides the inhibitory histone deacetylase activity of the drug.
“We have revealed the role of Artemisinin in breast cancer cell-motility in the current study. Hope it will open up a new direction for therapy to challenge breast cancer,” added Mishra, who had served as a faculty at the US-based MD Anderson Center under the University of Texas before joining Institute of Life Sciences.